21 July 2020: Heads Up!

Heads have been difficult for me.  I’ve tried creating heads several different ways and am finally settling on Basswood armatures and Sculpey clay medium.  In the image you see: a) a 2″ long piece of 1″ X 1″ Basswood.  b) The armature that has been carved.  This armature sets the proportions.  c and d) completed heads.  These have been baked and are ready for installation and paint.  After I have the Sculpey head the way that I want it I bake it for 15 minutes at 275 degrees.  And if I want to do more I can make the changes and re-bake.  

In the past, I have whittled faces but I find that I do not have the control over the detail that I would like.  So I have used a two-part product called Apoxy.  Apoxy works pretty well…it handles detail and it’s very strong…however it starts to harden right after it has been mixed.  Working time is 2-4 hours.  I find the working time a bit frustrating so am now working with Sculpey.  In the image, the biped that is painted does have an Apoxy head.

I made my own whittling knife out of a Gerber hunting knife that I had laying around.  I worked the metal for a long time getting the right shape…and then I’ve been stropping it for months.  Finally, it’s (perhaps) sharper than a razor and a pleasure to use (and dangerous).

On the national political front: I have no comment this week.  You’ve heard it…”if you cannot say something nice don’t say it at all”.  I just sad about it all.

A mini production line for heads. Basswood is the armature and Sculpey is the media.
21 July 2020


11 July 2020: Peddler #1 has a face

The most difficult part of automata creation for me is the creation of the biped.  Of primary frustration are body shape, hands, and head/face.  I’ve finished the Peddler #1 biped.  My wife and I were looking at it today and I remarked that “it’s distorted enough to be fascinating and yet not so distorted that it’s not real”.  This particular biped is painted with acrylic paints and then waxed with hand-applied paste wax…several coats.  It’s the application of the paste wax that signals to me that I’ve finished a biped.  Once the paste wax is applied nothing else can practically be done…no more sanding…no more painting, etc.

I’m considering the purchase of a 3D printer.  High on the list of what I want to do with it is creation of heads and hands.  We’ll see how that goes.  COVID-19 has disrupted my revenue stream, so the purchase is delayed.  Meanwhile, new  3D printer models are being introduced and prices are dropping.

Peddler #1 is almost completed.  It’s got a motor in it that is jerking…so a replacement is ordered from China.  I might mention that the eBay seller that I’ve been dealing with in China has been EXTREMELY helpful.  The seller is efreeship…here is a link to their store.  I was in a hurry and screwed up an order.  They caught my mistake and worked with me to correct it.  It was very nice of them.  I buy my motors from them.

On the Trump front, I’m trying hard to disregard.  The Stone pardon happened yesterday.  What a jerk.  And I believe that it’s going to get much worse before he is out of office.

My next automata project is going to follow the theme of ‘All Lives Matter’.  It will be a Jim’s Gym creation.

Stay healthy, everyone.  And try to keep your communities healthy.



Peddler #1 has a face.
11 July 2020


2 July 2020: Back to the Basics

On my workbench, I continue to make progress with Peddler #1.  I’m currently focused on the mechanism that causes the Peddler to wave, and of course, he needs to be painted.  The motor is slightly jerky.  I’ve got a replacement on its way to me.

Back to the Basics:  Every once in a while we need to sit back and look at the basics of it all.  Right now I’m trying to get my head around ‘what should the USA be’.  I went back to the Declaration of Independence and learned that it says (in summary);

  1. All men are created equal.  Apparently the definition of ‘men’  was ‘free, white, land-owning men.  Women, slaves, and indentured servants were not considered equal’.
  2. All men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.
  3. Among these rights are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
  4. To secure these rights governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
  5. Whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it.

What I’m looking for is guidance on how the present should be.  While I do find the summary of the Declaration of Independence interesting I am not finding the answer that I am looking for.  Our country can not be governed by the Declaration of Independence.

Where I am with all of this at the moment is “follow the money”.  You’ve all heard of this before…money is a major driver of action.  Money, by itself, however, has no conscience, it has no values.  Money is not a thinking entity…it is something that is measured.

So it seems that our present-day value systems are “what is legal?”.  Our present-day value systems are made up of rules and laws that were formed in the past.  In the past, we had different influences than we have today.  Religion, for example, was more prominent in our value system.  Also, it was not until the last 50 years (or so) that we began to live in the world, rather than in the USA.  And then there is the Internet…instant international communication AND access to virtually all knowledge.

Also, our planet has never had so many passengers.  We are overpopulated relative to our ability to understand and care for our spaceship.

So when someone says “Make America Great Again” what does it really mean?  In my mind, it does NOT mean a return to the past.  I think that is not possible.  In my mind, it means understanding how the money flows and being a productive part of that flow.  But also, we need to be respectful of each other (all colors, all sexes, all nationalities, everyone).  And we need to be respectful of our spaceship and all aboard.

Unfortunately, humans are not naturally gentle, understanding, non-selfish.  We humans are greedy.  We are self-centered.  And so more laws will be passed, and more time will flow, and human nature will remain unchanged and in the end, we will either come to a nice balance between laws and human nature…or we will fail as a species.

In the meantime, I’m trying to live honestly.  I’m trying to be a positive force.  It’s not perfect.  There is always room for improvement.

Humans are so insignificant in the big picture.

The Peddler Drive Frame has been sheathed with Myrtlewood and Pistachio ‘planks’. 26 June 2020


19 June 2020: Peddler #1 is coming to life

The #1 of any series are revealing…both the strengths and weaknesses of what I design and build become apparent.

An example of a weakness:  I did not have an hour meter in stock when I created the base.  Then the hour meter arrived and I find that I should have created the base 1/2″ higher.  I worked it out…but next time I’ll leave more room.

An example of a strength: In the image you see the cream-colored product spinning table.  It rotates counter to the direction that the biped travels in.  It rotates slowly.  All in all the motion is both attention getting and relaxing.

Peddler #1 needs about two more weeks before it’s completed.  It’s a good one.  As I complete it I can now allow my mind the freedom to start designing the next product spinning automata.

I’m not sorry that I posted (what I did) last week.  I’ve spent a lot of this week wondering what I can do that will make a difference.  I cannot really think of anything beyond what I’m doing.  I just need to accept things and relax.

Trial run for Peddler #1. 18 June 2020.

13 June 2020: Are we taking care of our space ship?

Warning: This blog is going to be a bit different from my norm.

Space Travel: Let’s assume for a bit that we are joining an expedition to Jupiter.  It would seem to me that we would be traveling on a space ship and that the space ship would have a Captain…someone totally in charge.  It would be the Captain’s responsibility to get the space ship safely to Jupiter.  In my opinion the space ship could not be commanded by a “Committee”.

World Travel: Those of us that live here on Earth are also on a space ship.  Our problem is that we are governed by “Committees”.  Further, we are governed by Committees that have objectives other than “safe long term space travel”.  In other words (in my humble opinion) as long as we are governed by committees that don’t care long term about our space ship we are doomed.

“In the long term, humans are doomed”

Jim Coffee, June 2020


2 June 2020: I’ve been Busking!

In 2016 I created a 20 pipe street organ, using John Smith plans.  And then I started playing the street organ in public and became hooked.  People love the music!  They sway, tap their feet, smile, nod,  Just in general the street organ cheers people up.

My two favorite venues are a farmers market and a swap meet.  Covid 19 shut me down at both venues (it shut both venues down).  Last weekend the Kobey’s Swap Meet reopened.  I performed both Friday and Sunday and had a great time.  It was wonderful being out and about and in crowds of people that I was positively affecting.

I was pleased to note that almost everyone was respectful of the social distancing and mask rules.  Until everyone is vaccinated…this is the way it must be.

On the other side of the coin here in the US we’ve are having incidents of public demonstrations turning into looting and trouble.  It’s too bad.  I’m sad.  I believe that the public demonstrations are warranted.  But looting and trouble does not do anything to further the cause of justice and a positive change in social behavior.

I’ve spent some time out in orbit around the earth (in my mind) looking down at the human condition.  I’m disappointed.  That said…there are all kinds of people and points of view…it will never be perfect.  The big question of course is “Are humans good enough that they will last through the ages?”  Personally, I think not.

Stay Healthy



Jim Coffee performing with his 20 pipe street organ  Big Wheel Lift #1 at the 2019 Steam Punk Convention that was held in San Diego.


25 May 2020: Memorial Day

It has been one of those ‘finicky’ weeks in the studio.  I had created both the biped and the pedal assembly.  This week the task has been to get them to operate smoothly together.  Finally, mission accomplished.  I had to do major biped surgery.  Had to move his thighs about 3/4″ further apart.

In the end he pedals very smoothly.  Now it’s time to create his permanent seat and the cowl that will proceed him.

Today is Memorial Day.  I am a Vietnam Vet.  I’m glad to be able to say that the Vietnam experience for me was not a particularly negative experience.  And as a nation we have fought wars since then…in fact still are.  Sometimes I wonder what would happen if all soldiers in the world would simply refuse to fight?  It is my belief that human nature would find other ways to fight…we cannot help ourselves.

As I evaluate my relationship with my country (the USA) I have to remind myself that I am always in the minority and that I must be tolerant and let others be who they are.  Our government is a compromise.  It will never be perfect.  There will always be greed and hate.  On the other hand, we have tolerance for love, selflessness, charity, learning, freedoms of religion and speech and we can vote for those that serve us in the government,  In spite of all that is wrong there is a lot that is right.  We are fortunate.

25 May 2020: The Peddler is fitted to his pedals.


17 May 2020: The Peddler is started

Not looking very sexy in this undressed state, is he? Before starting the Peddler #1 automata mechanism I created the biped.  I’ll build the automata to fit the biped.

This one will be different from prior automata in that the entire powered mechanism will rotate.  This will necessitate the use of a slip ring so that power can be transferred through to the rotating mechanism.  Initially, I did not know to call them slip rings…I did not know what to call them.  An hour later though and I was more educated and can now source slip rings.

This guy is going to be peddling a little cart that tows the product table around in a circle…I want the little cart to be “happy and cute’.  

And out in the world COVID-19 is still in control…though it seems that folks are ready to try to get back to work.  I think that it will take a while for the balance to be achieved as we wait for a vaccine.  I remain disappointed with the national leadership.

17 May 2020: The Peddler #1 biped is taking shape.


4 May 2020, Product Spinner

It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost a month since my last blog post…the world is moving fast.

Being of a mechanical mind, every time my wife and I drive by a sign-spinner on a corner of a street my mind works on ways that the sign-spinner could be on a bicycle-type of device…one that would allow the sign-spinner to relax a bit…and that would also permit people to notice and read the sign.

Take that idea a bit further and you arrive at ‘Product Spinner’.  For decades I’ve contemplated creating a product spinner…a little device that sits on a countertop and that attracts attention to a product or service.

I had just finished Surfer #1 and was learning a bit about how to whittle.  As the biped was nearing completion I began to contemplate what automata to use it in…and decided that now is the time for the product spinner.  

The image at the right shows the effort three weeks later.  The product spinner has gone together well.  It’s sturdy and should be able to run for years  It features, in addition to the pedaling and lever pulling biped, two product tables that rotate, and a third rotating shaft that at the moment is twirling a pennant made of blue painters tape.

As I write this blog post the product spinner (that you see pictured) lays disassembled on my workbench.  It is in the process of being painted.

It is my hope that I will be able to rent this product spinner to some sort of retail establishment.  My next blog post should show this automata completed.

On the world front, COVID-19 continues to impact the entire planet.  In the news are whispers of some countries and states beginning to loosen restrictions in efforts to restart the economic engines.  I wish good fortune to everyone as we learn how to achieve balance in this new life.

And in parting let me say that today is my 75th birthday.  I feel blessed to be living in my current circumstances and to be married to Cheryl.

Stay healthy.  



Product Spinner #1 construction is complete. Next is disassembly and paint.


5 April 2020, Surfer #1 is completed

I challenged myself to a two week build…which I began 18 March.  The subject was a surfer on a board.  I’m pleased to report that I completed the challenge on time.  No motor.  I wish that I had included a motor because I really like the motion of this automata…I would like to be able to turn it on and sit back and watch it.  The motion is very soothing.  I’ll be creating a video soon and will post a link when completed.

The big deal in the world right now is COV!D-19 (the coronavirus).   The entire planet is feeling the effects of this pandemic.  Things will be different moving forward.  I shudder when I consider the cost of the bailout package that Congress just passed…we don’t need more national debt…and yet I cannot imagine what I would do if I was in their shoes.  A very difficult situation.

At James Coffee Studios things are sort of normal.  We work from home…so continue to do so.  However, business is way down.  It will pick up as social distancing rules are relaxed.  And trips to the store are far less frequent.  We had been trying to buy local.  Very difficult at this point to buy local and to support local businesses.  We are purchasing many more things online now.  Inevitable, I guess.  In a hundred years I wonder what “local” businesses will be?  Restaurants, bars, megastores, grocery stores…  Many of the small businesses that are on the streets of America will be distant memories in 100 years.

Surfer #1, completed 2 April 2020